Senator Alvarado: Legislative Update

Published 2:25 pm Monday, January 17, 2022

This legislative week was an abbreviated one—only four days—ahead of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

This allows for a four-day weekend which greatly benefits members of the western Kentucky delegation who are eager to be home as efforts to rebuild continue. It also allows me to provide a quicker report about what is being accomplished.

In our second week of work, vital legislation was passed on disaster relief for western Kentucky by ensuring in-person education is maintained for as many students as possible amid COVID-19 mitigation efforts in our schools.
Members of the western Kentucky delegation championed Senate Bill (SB) 5, and I and all other members of the Senate signed on as co-sponsors in a show of unity for west Kentucky.

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SB 5 provides western Kentucky communities devastated by the recent tornadoes with $200 million in general aid. The Western Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergencies (SAFE) fund will immediately allocate $45 million, with $15 million of the funds going specifically to long-term but temporary housing for displaced families. The remaining $30 million will assist with education needs, bringing a sense of normalcy and much-needed stability to children’s lives through providing transportation to students displaced outside of their home school district, counseling, tutoring, and after-school programs.

Concerning the recovery of western Kentucky, the General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution (HJR) 29, which extended the state of emergency declaration for the impacted region. Lawmakers contend the Governor did not need an extension by the legislature to continue that state of emergency.

During the 2021 Regular Session, legislation passed that instituted much-needed checks and balances on the executive branch clearly outlined the types of emergency declarations that required lawmakers’ approval to be extended beyond 30 days. We believe that this would not apply to ongoing emergencies faced by the residents of western Kentucky. Out of an abundance of caution, we passed HJR 29 as another showing of the legislature’s commitment to the region.

SB 25 was a bill that I supported in its original form. To spare you from a lengthy civics lesson, I’ll keep it brief.

The original provisions of SB 25 were first passed out of the Senate early last week. It was a clean bill that prioritized keeping as many students in the classroom as possible and giving schools the flexibility they need to mitigate COVID-19. Essentially, the bill extends provisions first enacted under SB 1 from last summer’s Special Session. Schools have been operating under those provisions so far this school year. To be clear, those provisions remained in the final version of SB 25.

Unfortunately, unrelated measures to give the Governor yet another extension of his COVID-19 executive orders—which have been in place nearing two years now—were placed into the bill while it was with the state House.

The good provisions of SB 25, which remained and will become enacted law upon the Governor’s signature, included providing individual schools with ten remote instruction days instead of a district-wide allotment. These non-traditional instruction (NTI) days may be used by the school in a variety of ways to ensure the fewest students are impacted, such as quarantining only a specific class or group as opposed to the entire student body. In order to address staffing shortages, the bill also extended loosened regulations around state retirement benefits to allow schools to rehire previously retired staff.

Those parts of SB 25 that I support maintain a more balanced approach to mitigating COVID-19 in schools. SB 1 from the 2021 Special Session was the product of lawmakers’ collaboration, as opposed to unilateral actions by the Governor, who thought a top-down, one-size-fits-all plan was the only way forward.

Something I will keep you updated on in the weeks ahead is a bill I have introduced, SB 50. It would extend educational opportunity accounts to more students in Kentucky by making them applicable to all counties and more middle-class families who deserve a choice in their child’s education.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” -MLK

Senator Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester) represents the 28th Senate District, including Clark and Montgomery Counties and the eastern portion of Fayette County. He serves as chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare. He is also a member of the Senate Standing Committees on State and Local Government and Banking and Insurance. He is a liaison member of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources. Additionally, Senator Alvarado serves as a member of the Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Statutory Committee and the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee.